Tories accuse Ontario Liberals of rewarding supporters with government contracts

The Progressive Conservatives say Premier Kathleen Wynne rewarded the Liberal campaign co-chair in the 2014 Ontario election with nearly $900,000 in government contracts.

NDP Leader says the premier wants to make sure her friends and party insiders ‘do very, very well’

Opposition Leader Patrick Brown is accusing the Ontario Liberals of crossing ethical lines by awarding contracts to firms that support them.

The Progressive Conservatives say Premier Kathleen Wynne rewarded the Liberal campaign co-chair in the 2014 Ontario election with nearly $900,000 in government contracts.

Opposition Leader Patrick Brown says he was shocked to learn David Herle and his Gandalf Group consulting firm got contracts for $836,000 and $49,000 from the cabinet office, and suspects other ministries gave Herle contracts as well.

Brown calls it another example of how the Liberals crossed ethical lines, and says it was inappropriate to reward their friends and party insiders with taxpayer money.

Wynne says all governments use market research and polling firms, and says Ontario has contracts with at least least six other companies, including a $2 million deal with Ipsos Reid. 

The premier says all of the research contracts are procured through a fair, transparent and competitive process, and final decisions are made by a committee of at least three non-partisan public servants.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says Wynne's biggest concern is how to make things better for the Liberal Party and making sure her friends and party insiders "do very, very well, while the rest of the province falls apart."

"Her priority is always the Liberal party and well-connected Liberals," said Horwath.

Herle and the Gandalf Group did not respond to a request for comment on the Conservatives' allegations.

During Monday's question period, Brown said the only thing the Liberals care about is their own political survival, and asked how many other contracts Herle and Gandalf Group had with different government ministries.

"Does the premier have an ounce of ethics left?" asked Brown. "Does the premier think it is acceptable to hand out $1 million worth of contracts to her Liberal pals and cronies?"

Wynne didn't answer Brown's question about other government contracts for Herle, but defended the government's need to conduct market research to look at the impact of their policies and said the contracts were awarded in a competitive process.

"There have to be five vendors," she said. "A choice is made by public servants. It's not a partisan process."

The New Democrats said it's not the first time Liberals have rewarded their supporters, especially big donors to the governing party.

"We had movers and shakers in the banking industry who gave a lot of money to the Liberal party and then proceeded to make a lot of money in the sale of Hydro One," said Horwath. "The Liberals' priority is the Liberal Party of Ontario."